TPL moves to court over Water Street land
Seeking declaration that acquisition unconstitutional By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 10, 2001

Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) has moved to the courts for redress under Article 153 of the Constitution over the state's planned acquisition of its land on Water Street to accommodate vendors.

In the latest development in the tussle for mud lots 49,50,51 and 52 Water Street, lawyers for TPL yesterday filed a Notice of Motion returnable for October 22nd, 2001 seeking a variety of reliefs as they said the applicant's fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 40, 142 and 149 of the Constitution are being and are likely to be contravened.

The lawyers, Rex McKay SC and Edward Luckhoo SC are seeking a declaration on behalf of the applicant that the purported acquisition by the State is unconstitutional and null and void.

In the constitutional motion it was pointed out that President Bharrat Jagdeo has stated that the government will not pay more than $100M for the land and that this asseveration was at odds with the mandatory constitutional provision that where land is compulsorily obtained the government must pay the "current market value".

Declarations are also being sought by the applicant that the purpose for which the land is needed by the State is not a public purpose; that section 6 A of the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes (Amendment) Act 2001 is unconstitutional as it has not been passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and that the money paid or to be paid by the State purportedly as compensation is not based on a scientific professional assessment by an independent valuer of the current market value and is illusory, arbitrary and capricious. The applicant is also requesting a declaration that it is not competent for the government to enter the land until it has paid the applicant the current market value or has lodged it with the Registry of the High Court.

Lawyers for the applicant are also seeking an award in favour of the applicant under Articles 40, 142, and 149 of the Constitution in excess of $500M as compensation for compulsory acquisition and for any requisite writs, orders and directions under Article 153 of the Constitution as may be necessary for securing the rights of the applicant.

The dispute over the land has its genesis in a declaration by President Jagdeo that he would acquire the Water Street land to locate vendors who ply their wares on that thoroughfare. A series of meetings were held between President Jagdeo and principals of TPL but no agreement was reached. The company had valued the land and the installation works done at $457M while in public utterances government functionaries had said it was worth no more than $100M.

Consequent to this, the government on the 16th of August moved to the National Assembly and passed the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes (Amendment) Act 2001 to acquire land for public work or a public purpose whether or not there were any buildings or erections on it. It was believed that the purpose of the amendment was tailored to the TPL land. On Friday, President Jagdeo said that the order to appropriate the land had been signed by Prime Minister Sam Hinds and would be gazetted this week. Another order would then follow allowing surveyors onto the land after which government will go to Parliament to vote the necessary resources to compensate the company. Another order would then be signed to complete the process.